Fazzini Must Have You Ever At Her Side

One evening in July, just after dark, Fazzini, a mere child, hardly more than six, now living with his famous mother, was seen racing across Vicenza.

His friends, spotting him, called out, “Marco, Marco, where are you going so fast?”–but the boy flung himself along, taking no time to reply, inasmuch as his racing was indeed borne of emergency and panic and the direst need.

He burst into his father’s house just as the latter was sitting down to dinner. “Father, father,” the boy cried, “come quickly, for our mother is saying she will do away with herself.”

The father at once leapt up from the table and now there were two Fazzinis racing across Vicenza, their foot race borne of direst emergency, and no time in their running to reply to curious bystanders who called out, “Hey, you two stallions, why are you racing so, why don’t you slow down and live, take time to enjoy yourselves?”

Between gulps of breath, oh, racing so fast, the father asked his son, “Your dear mother, the most precious of women, the happiest of women, why is she wanting to do away with herself?”

To which the hurrying boy replied, “Papa, papa, how you do astound me! Do you not remember that my darling mother, your wife, is always unhappiest when she is completing a painting, and papa, papa, she may already have completed her painting and be yet this very second on the very brink of doing away with herself, so let’s hurry, dear papa, and save this chatter for the more reposed moment.”

So there they were yet again, racing–how many times in a single year to speed back and forth across the city to the woman who was about to do herself in, as she was ever about to do on those frequent and heart-numbing occasions when the one painting was nearing completion and the next not yet begun, and never perhaps to be begun, because with one painting done the artist so rarely could see herself setting down to begin another, and thus her life would be over, since what reason could she have to go on drawing human breath when she had not the smallest conception of what canvas she might next turn to — no, and never would again, for her brain was dead and her body dying also.

This she would say to the boy, her face and hands dripping paint, her brush hand furiously at work on the all-but-completed painting: “Oh my dearest boy, my most acutely enamoured son, my sweetest heart, although I love you dearly and cannot bear the thought of being parted from you, you who mean everything to me! But what am I without my painting, this poisonous art, this worm that drinks my blood? I am nothing, a no one, a meaningless cipher in life’s treadmill, a nonentity and a sniveller, a hack, bad-mooded and ill-tempered and totally unrecognizable even as a human being! Without my painting I will be no good to you as a mother and I will despair and my despair will ruin your life, my dearest son, as it has ruined so many others, not to exclude your loving father, oh goodbye my darling, though for the moment I live, I work, I paint in this fever, but come and kiss me, do, there, there’s a sweet boy, do forgive me!”

So everyone on Vicenza’s historic streets who saw the two Marcos running so fast looked up at the dark sky, and said to one another, “Well, my goodness, our Marcella, the Invincible One, she must be about to finish her new painting.”

So, then:

Quickly as one could speak the words, father and son burst into the painter’s studio, those old and creaking paint-splattered rooms nearby Plaza Tapatia, with the warped doors, the uneven floor, the crooked walls, the ragged ceiling where a thousand spiders had spun their webs since time immemorial, but boasting high, clean windows which admitted good light even on the most foul day, with a view from these windows of the Fabled Palace of the Fallen Angels, who were known to cavort in a frenzy and hide their heads in agony whenever the painter Marcella was about to pronounce “Fini” to her new painting and splash on the wild signature which only another spider could decipher…

Why, yes, father Marco and son Marco, as alike in their jitters as the yolks from two eggs, sweat dripping from their eyes, their hearts pounding, their eyes bulging, entering…

Entering to see the dear artist at work so intensely with her paints and brushes in that smallest pocket down in the painting’s infamous right corner that she scarcely could take time out to lift her eyes in acknowledgement of them, her hair a tangle of fiery vermilion and ochre and russet hues that might have been taken for ancient blood, that might have been sludge washed into her scalp from primordial rock, her brow furrowed in deepest concentration, her smock a sea of stains, and muttering to herself, “Light, light, oh, where has the light got to?”–because daylight had indeed waned and here she was working now from the mere, intermittent, all but inconsequential illumination that a single cigarette could provide. Oh, puff-puff, the brief orange glow, paint paint, puff-puff, another quick stroke, brush work down in that tight, meanest little final corner, the painter squinting, puff-puff, her teeth gnawing first one and then the other lip, puff-puff, the curling ash, the brief glow of light, the quickest stab of paint, her rapt, tortured face but inches from the canvas…

Then, Voila! Holy Moses! Sainted Mother! Jumping Jehoshaphat!–a great shout from the artist (“I’m done, fini, fait accompli, bloody terminada! Skaal! Prosit! Salud, To my health!”) — and the paint brushes pitched across the room, a foot kicking aside the mountain of cigarette butts, wading through carpets of ash, wrenched tubes, palettes, frayed brushes, tin cans, rags, trampled canvas, as one hand grabs a grappa bottle from a high shelf,100% pale bluest grappa made from a baby’s sighs, how delightful, may the Virgins in heaven sing…as the artist swigs once, swigs a second time (“Gloria Patri, most excellent, how divine!”)–the artist next clawing at her hair, burying her face within her frock’s stiffened folds as she sinks to the floor(“Now to kill myself!”)

“Mama!” cried the son.

“Beloved one!” cried the husband.

The painter, at the very instant these two Marcos spoke, rebounding from the floor as one possessed, now flinging a massive new canvas onto her easel, striding this way and that to retrieve her paints and brushes.


Only then lifting an astonished face to her wide-eyed visitors, that face lit with sudden, transforming radiance by the most heart-warming cheer. Exclaiming to this most-excellent duo of Marco Fazzinis:

“Darlings! My treasures! In the nick of time! The very nick! When did you arrive? Look! My best painting ever! Oh my lovelies, a work of genius with no known comparison –now, now, shoo! shoo! Away from me, you gnats! — those other immortals must step aside, goodbye Mestizaje, goodbye Michelangelo, Sigueiras and Tomayo, step aside! Oh, but not you, my darlings, come and hold me, let me embrace you, oh let me kiss your faces, and after the kisses, grappa, more grappa, grappa until we drop, my wonders, but one sip only for me, one only, and a quick brush of my teeth to extract this vile taste that benumbs my mouth, perhaps afterwards a second sip, a third, and then it’s onwards to my next work, my sweet stallions, because I am in the grip of delirious fever and must keep on, on on onwards!, with no time out for dinner or the conventional human intercourse between closest friends, or even to properly greet you, my darlings, how nice of you to drop in and what on earth would become of me if I did not have you ever at my side?”

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